Proposed home for NPR on north edge of D.C.’s downtown

Originally published in Current, Oct. 7, 1991
By Jack Robertiello

If negotiations go according to plan, NPR will move into a building of its own in downtown Washington next year.

NPR has signed a non-binding letter of intent with the owners of the narrow, trianglar, seven-story building near the city's convention center, according to a memo NPR President Douglas J. Bennet sent to NPR staffers Sept. 27 [1991].

The seller and NPR have agreed to bargain "in good faith" toward a sale contract, the memo said.

The 150,000-square-foot building most recently housed employment offices of the owner, American Security Bank, a subsidiary of Maryland-based MNC Financial. The network now occupies just under 100,000 square feet at 2025 M St., N.W.

NPR has been considering relocation for the past year. The first of two leases in the M Street building expires in April 1992. Officials have been weighing options, including leaving Washington, staying put or buying a building.

"At first we felt that the market situation made purchase unlikely," Bennet said in the memo. "Real estate prices have since fallen substantially, however."

NPR officials decline comment on the price of the building, as did MNC Financial officials, but in the memo, Bennet said he hopes to hold the combined price of the purchase and build-out below the cost of renting another building or staying at 2025 M St.

The NPR Board must approve any purchase agreement. In the memo, Bennet also said the deal depends on the company obtaining tax-exempt financing for the purchase.

The building NPR selected is in a neighborhood quite different from the one where NPR now resides. The current headquarters is in the middle of a bustling business section of Washington, a black from the Federal Communications Commission and across the street from the CBS News Washington bureau.

Edge of downtown

The building at 635 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., was built in two phases, the main building going up in 1970 and an addition in 1980. Because it is so long and narrow, the building would provide windows and sunlight for a large proportion of employees.

The point of the building fronts on Mt. Vernon Square, at the northern edge of office development. Major downtown anchors such as the Washington Convention Center, the Techworld office complex and new hotels and offices are close, but so is the mostly poor, mostly residential Shaw neighborhood, recently the subject of a Frontline documentary about deteriorating neighborhoods and black family life.

While a new subway stop in the vicinity has boosted the area's profile, it remains mostly deserted after dark, with few nearby amenities such as restaurants, bars, newsstands or convenience stores.

Bennet said in the memo that the neighborhood is "likely to see substantial growth and appreciation in the future." D.C. officials have been planning to build a second convention center very nearby.

NPR Finance Vice President Sidney Brown declined comment on the building and sale until the deal is closed.

NPR has agreed to settle the deal no later than July 31, 1992. The network would have to renovate the building, construct studios and move before April 1993.

If the deal falls through, NPR's present landlord, Oliver J. Carr Co., has agreed to let the company remain on M Street.

Web page posted Feb. 12, 2001
Copyright 2001 by Current LLC

LATER ARTICLE

New NPR headquarters will be "the last great analog facility" in radio, 1993.

 

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